I rewrote the lyrics of Neil Young’s “Pocahontas” to be about the Vietnam War. Like the original, it’s about nightmares and dreams…

“Winnie Cooper”
By Neil Young and Dustin Brandt

Flares and sirens warning
The mortar thumps at night
Splinters cut the warm air
But they don’t stay and fight
It’s the yellow man
From the jungles green
And the homeland
they’ve never seen.

We killed them in the paddies
And we cut their women down
We might have left some babies
Cryin’ on the ground
But the Cobras
and the Hueys come
And the night falls
on the setting sun.

We massacred the VC
Kitty corner from the flank
Empties run across my feet
And my eyes have turned to blanks
In the village
I can see them down there
With their loved ones
and some rice to share.

I wish I was a beach boy
I would trade every grain of sand
To sit with Winnie Cooper
And maybe hold her hand
In the evening
Far from jungles green
In the homeland
They’ve never seen.

And maybe Richard Nixon
Will be there by the fire
We’ll sit and talk of Saigon
And the good things there for hire
And of Star Wars
and the Air Calvary
Richard Nixon, Winnie Cooper and me
Richard Nixon, Winnie Cooper and me
Winnie Cooper

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I was looking through the archives and came across the post about Cirio Santiago’s Vietnam War movies.  One of my worst posts, as all it basically says is “wow he made a lot of these movies but I don’t have anything interesting to say about them.”  I’ve now trashed that post.

I’m here today to fix that deficiency by creating a viewing guide for Cirio Santiago’s Vietnam War movies.  This debuts my new not-exactly-objective rating system for jungle movies:

Jungle Rating System:
0 = no jungle
1 = only a little jungle and it’s nothing special (not sufficiently green and leafy, maybe filmed in a nature park during dry season, or it’s just a poorly maintained coconut plantation)
2 = only a little jungle but it’s pretty good (sufficiently green and leafy, perhaps dark, moist, or uniquely evocative)
3 = a lot of jungle but nothing special
4 = a lot of jungle and pretty good
5 = my entirely subjective jungle hall of fame

Trailers, reviews, and more info on these movies at youtube, IMDB.com, Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys, and When the Vietnam War raged…in the Philippines.

(Also check out my Guide to Cirio’s Post-Apocalypse movies.)

Henry Strzalkowski demonstrates what these movies are all about (pic from Bamboo Gods):

First, sorted by release date according to IMDB.com:

1987:
Eye of the Eagle
Behind Enemy Lines
1988:
The Expendables
1989:
Nam Angels
Eye of the Eagle 2: Inside the Enemy
Eye of the Eagle 3 (aka Last Stand at Lang Mei)
1991:
Field of Fire (aka Battle Gear)
1992:
Beyond the Call of Duty
1993:
Kill Zone
Firehawk

There’s a few more movies related to Nam that Cirio made, all predating the above.  Caged Fury is a “Women in Prison” movie set in Vietnam, but it has very little in common with these movies and doesn’t have much or good jungle.  The Devastator and Final Mission are First Blood knockoffs set in America, except for the opening scenes portraying the destruction of a village in Vietnam.  Not enough Nam or jungle to deserve more just a passing mention in this post.

Now, sorted from my least to most favorite, but they are all terribly entertaining.

Beyond the Call of Duty
Jungle Rating: 3
Keywords: gold, funny boat
Why watch this first?  If you want to start at with worst of this list and work your way up.

Note:  IMDB says this is edited from Nam Angels.  Not really…only a minute or so that was used from Nam Angels:  the gas torture scene filmed at Corregidor’s Battery Way. Several scenes were also taken from the Eye of the Eagle trilogy (Vic Diaz and Mike Monty cameos). In fact, nearly the entire first twenty or so minutes is scenes taken from Cirio’s other Nam flicks!  Beyond the Call of Duty doesn’t really begin until twenty minutes in and by then you are confused by the typhoon of disjointed action scenes that you just watched. Maybe it’s intended to replicate the chaos and confusion of the Fall of Saigon…I dunno.

Eye of the Eagle 3 aka Last Stand at Lang Mei
Jungle Rating:  1…yeah, it’s mostly set on the blasted firebase and the background doesn’t even look like jungle.
Keywords: Montagnards, improvised napalm
Why watch this first? If you want to compare it to Siege of Firebase Gloria and won’t miss R. Lee Ermey.

Eye of the Eagle 2: Inside the Enemy
Jungle Rating:  2
Keywords: Mike Monty sober, nudie bar scene
Why watch this first?  If you want to see the movie on this list that has partially believable gun battles (ie least reminiscent of old video games) but the most nudity, and you only have 78 minutes to waste.
Note: this is the only movie on this list not directed by Cirio. Carl Franklin directed it. Cirio was the producer. Definitely has a different feel to it.  Furthermore, none of the Eye of the Eagle movies have anything to do with each other.

Behind Enemy Lines, aka Killer Instinct
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords:  Soviet villains, a cold cold ending
Why watch this first? If you want to study stereotypical portrayals of the Soviet commando in western cinema during the Cold War.

The Expendables
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords: topless Vic Diaz, nudie bar scene, shower raid, Corregidor filming location
Why watch this first?  If the phrase “topless Vic Diaz” causes you to raise an eyebrow.

Firehawk
Jungle Rating:  5…best jungle on this list
Keywords:  caves that are supposed to be vietcong tunnels, nuke bomb plot
Why watch this first?  If you want to watch closest thing on this list to a normal movie.

Kill Zone
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords:  nudie bar scene, Montagnards, Banaue rice terraces filming location, Corregidor filming location, David Carradine wearing aviators and chewing cigars, punji trap
Why watch this first? If you are a fan of former NFL player Tony Dorsett and prepared to think lesser of him, and want to see Carradine go batshit.

Field of Fire (aka Battle Gear)
Jungle Rating:  4
Keywords:  nudie bar scenes, David Carradine in a khaki jumpsuit, Corregidor filming location, punji trap
Why watch this first? If you were disappointed with the second half of Bat 21.

Nam Angels
Jungle Rating:  3
Keywords:  Montagnards, gold, Soviet (or is it Nazi?) Vernon Wells, motorcycles, nudie bar scene, Corregidor filming locations
Why watch this first? If the idea of Hell’s Angels in Vietnam interests you in the slightest and you want to see the next big step in the career of Vernon Wells after letting off some steam in Commando.

Eye of the Eagle
Jungle Rating:  4
Keywords:  Mike Monty drunk, Vic Diaz shot between eyes, Montagnards, memorable theme song, Corregidor filming location, non-nudie bar scene
Why watch this first? If you want to watch the quintessential Cirio Santiago Vietnam War movie.

Yup, I’m giving Eye of the Eagle the crown.  It was a tight battle between it and Nam Angels.  The deciding factor was Eagle‘s superior theme song.

This post needs some fire in the jungle.  The big winner Eye of the Eagle gets the last word, filmed at Corregidor ruins. (photo again from Bamboo Gods.)

Ken Hite is creating a fantasy RPG module with some serious Jungle-osity. At Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Ken says:

“…All around, sorcerous echoes and explosions ripple the skies, but as a constant drumbeat of vile thunder, not as anything aimed at anyone in the same country. The Qelong Valley has been poisoned by accident and forgotten by its killers. Only the scavengers remain, and the worms that grow in the corpse.”

“If your campaign takes place on Earth or a close analogue, Sajavedra maps generally to Cambodia; the Qelong River valley specifically to the portion south and west of the Cardamom and Elephant Ranges.”

James adds:

“Magical fallout, the elephant lich, the hundred-mile-long naga, the Lotus Monks, the insect-possessed myrmidons, and so much more…”

Schweet. Obviously, this sounds like it would work well in the fantasy Vietnam War mashup setting of the Fire in the Jungle Supplement.  The “Lost Shell” or “Cylinder” sounds like a stray canister of Agent Orange or the wizard-tech equivalent of a tactical nuclear weapon.

Looking forward to this module.

I recall seeing an advertisement in an old gaming mag for Giac My suggesting that it was a fantasy Vietnam War rpg. Elves…hobbits…orcs…guerrillas…jungle…machine guns…etc. Sounded interesting.

Nope. When I eventually got my hands on Giac My, I discovered it was simply a modern warfare in jungle miniatures game. Nothing fantastical about it. I was a little disappointed. There’s no chance I’ll ever play it, but it’s still a cool little book.

Published in 1978 by FanTac Games. Size, style, and layout is a lot like an OD&D little brown book. Sprinkled throughout are rather silly but fun illustrations by F. MacCrae and R. Foerster.

This post is a shrine to the illustrations of Giac My.

Ambush! 1970

On Watch – Achau Valley, 1968

Hobo Woods Poacher 1967

Monsoon Season in Tay Nihn – 1969

Pungi – Na Trang, 1965

Firebase map

Forward Operating Base map

Huey over Kontum – 1967

Tunnel Warfare rules and NVA Regular – 1968

Looks like a hut on fire.

“Fort Apache” 1968

Eventually I’m going to compile all the jungle movies I’ve listed on this blog into one big list, like The Big List of 1980s Barbarian & Fantasy Movies. It would be more useful that way. In the meantime, here’s some mainstream (at least compared to the namsploitation trash that’s more commonly posted about here) Vietnam War jungle movies  that have yet to be mentioned on this blog.

Go Tell the Spartans (1978), directed by Ted Post. Despite being filmed in California, the jungle is halfway believable. Easily on the short list of all-time best Vietnam War movies.

The Deer Hunter (1978), directed by Michael Cimino. Not much jungle, but the bamboo cages in water became staples of many ‘Nam POW flicks.

Uncommon Valor (1983), directed by Ted Kotcheff.  Listed as being filmed in Hawaiian jungle, but it seems they imported a Filipino carabao and some Tagalog-speaking actors. (My wife lets me know whenever a movie contains Vietnamese soldiers speaking a Filipino dialect.) This movie spawned scads of POW rescue copycats.  Phantom Raiders is strikingly similar, but with ninjas.

Compare the Uncommon Valor squad to the Tropic Thunder gang below.

Purple Hearts (1984), directed by Sidney Furie.  Like a cross between China Beach and Top Gun.  Interesting concept, but it tries to do too much and the love story is awkward.  Filmed in the Philippines with a few decent jungle scenes, so it has that going for it, at least.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), directed by George P. Cosmatos. Decent Mexican jungle locations. The exploding arrowheads made a strong impression on me when I was a youngster.

(Click here for an earlier post with an exploding communist.)

Hamburger Hill (1987), directed by John Irvin. This is often described as being highly realistic, but it seemed to be little more than veneer and cliche. Veneer and cliche are entertaining in trashy movies, but they are simply veneer and cliche in a “serious movie” like this. It doesn’t give any sense of the context surrounding the battle for Hamburger Hill, nor the unfolding of the battle itself. Filmed in the Philippines with a few decent jungle scenes, so it has that going for it, at least.

Bat 21 (1988), directed by Peter Markle. Talk about a forgotten Vietnam War movie…starring Gene Hackman and Danny Glover, no less.  Some nice Malaysian jungle and the first half of the movie is excellent, but the second half sputters out and crashes with nothing there to rescue it.

Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), directed by Simon Wincer. Did you know that Disney made a ‘Nam movie? How did they market a movie like this? It’s somewhat entertaining actually, with some great Thailand jungle.

We Were Soldiers (2002), directed by Randall Wallace.  This movie hardly deserves mention on this list, because its forest looks nothing like a jungle. Filmed in California and Georgia, but it might as well have been filmed in Minnesota.  Disappointing.

Tunnel Rats (2008), directed by Uwe Boll. There is some ok South African jungle and the tunnel crawling scenes are sufficiently nasty, but it completely fails as Vietnam War movie. Maybe it has some merit as a horror movie, I dunno. Every character makes the wrong decision, every step of the way. Is that how horror movies usually do it? Some similarities to 84 Charlie Mopic, which is a much better movie.

Compare the Tropic Thunder gang here to the Uncommon Valor squad above.

Tropic Thunder (2008), directed by Ben Stiller. A brilliant idea…a parody of Vietnam War movies. I liked the first half, but then it got lost in silliness. Plenty of great Hawaiian jungle, though.

(Some mainstream Vietnam War movies feature little or no jungle, so aren’t officially on this list, such as Heaven and Earth, Good Morning Vietnam, Full Metal Jacket, etc.)

Many of the low-grade Nam flicks that I’ve mentioned on this site only received official release on VHS.  Incredibly, some have had “official” release DVD, and this post lists the cheapest.  Video quality isn’t great on most of these, they appear to be sourced from VHS tapes, some with burned-in subtitles in foreign languages. Except for a couple non-jungle movies in the MERCS collection, these were all filmed in the Philippines.

Phantom Raiders (1988), directed by Dan Harvey.  Fantastically entertaining, but I don’t understand the economics of releasing a movie like this on it’s own DVD and not part of a collection. Starring Miles O’Keefe of Ator fame.  He puts in a decent “Clint Eastwood as a jungle ninja” performance.


Expendables 2: Zero Heroes is a collection of four low budget jungle action flicks on one DVD.  Couldn’t believe it when I saw this for sale at a local Best Buy. This was put out a couple years ago to cash in on the popularity of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, but these movies have nothing to do with that movie.  Stallone’s The Expendables 2 is scheduled for release in August.

The Expendables (1988), directed by Cirio Santiago
Wild Team (1985), directed by Umberto Lenzi
Cobra Mission, aka Operation Nam (1986), directed by Fabrizio De Angelis
Cobra Mission 2 (1989), directed by Camillo Teti

The main reason to get this collection is for Cirio’s The Expendables.  Cobra Mission is a decent movie too, but the print used here is completely unwatchable.  Fortunately, a better print is included in the next collection…


Grindhouse Experience Presents: MERCS.  Ten movies on three discs, listed in rough order of my least to most favorite…

The Last Mercenary (aka Rolf) (1984), directed by Mario Siciliano
Soldiers of Fortune (1990), directed by Pierluigi Ciriaci
These two aren’t much it a jungle at all, more of an arid desert setting, so I didn’t really watch them closely at all. That shows how serious my jungle pretentiousness is.

Fireback (1983), directed by Teddy Page (“famous” for Phantom Soldiers).  Starts off looking like a “big gun in the jungle” movie, but then the big gun and the jungle are never seen again and it becomes a ho-hum revenge flick.  Mike Monty has the quote of the movie when he says, “He can make an ordinary soft drink straw into a weapon.”

Mannigan’s Force (1988), directed by John Ryan Grace.  Opens with an explosive raid that may or may not have been in a jungle, but the rest of the movie doesn’t have much to offer.  The main reason to watch this is to laugh at Mike Monty wearing a beard and dictator/general costume.

Death Raiders (1984), directed by Segundo Ramos.  I’m having a hard time constructing a complete sentence to describe this movie, so here’s some keywords:  Jungle, Cave, Drunken Kung Fu, Twice-baked Dialog, Awkward Machismo.

Operation Nam (aka Cobra Mission).  Better video quality than in the Expendables 2 collection. Watchable at least.  Plenty of nice greenery, but it’s mostly of the “coconut plantation” variety, not jungle.  Memorable scene:  After blasting up a village, the commando gets frustrated by the fasteners on a damsel’s shirt and growls…”All these buttons!” So she turns her back to him, all demure and such, to undo the buttons. Turns back around to reveal her bosom completely covered in scars. Then she says “American napalm”, lifts a pistol and shoots him dead through the chest.

A couple movies in this collection have been previously mentioned on this site: Tiger Joe and Strike Commando.

War Bus (1986), directed by Ferdinando Baldi. An irresistible premise: escaping from North Vietnamese-controlled territory in a big yellow school bus.  Neat thing about this one is that it felt a little like a Spaghetti Western or Post-Apocalypse movie at times. Trailers are better in German…

Raiders of the Magic Ivory, aka Predators of the Magic Stone (1988), directed by Tonino Ricci.  Borderline candidate for inclusion on the Big List of 1980s Fantasy Movies. Like an Indiana Jones movie set in Vietnam, but over-the-top ridiculous.

Best in the MERCs collection?  Tough choice between Strike Commando, War Bus, and Raiders of the Magic Ivory. All three are top trash contenders, but Raiders gets my vote for a couple of reasons…

From the Wikipedia page:

“In June 1966, the Army Vietnam Combat Artists Program was established as part of the United States Army Art Program, utilizing teams of soldier-artists to make pictorial records of U.S. Army activities in the course of the Vietnam War for the annals of military history. The concept of the Vietnam Combat Art Program had its roots in WW II when the U.S. Congress authorized the Army to use soldier-artists to record military operations in 1944.

Nine Combat Artist Teams (CATs) operated in Vietnam. Typically, each team consisted of five soldier artists who spent 60 days of temporary duty (TDY) in Vietnam gathering information and making preliminary sketches of U.S. Army related activities. The teams then transferred to Hawaii for an additional 75 days to finish their work. Artists were given artistic freedom and encouraged to depict subjects in their own individual styles.”

At that page there are dozens of examples of the work of the CATs, but these are the most relevant to the themes of Fire in the Jungle:

Attack at Twilight

Swamp Patrol

Second Platoon Assault

Night Operation

Big and Little Firepower

Looking Down the Trail

Mortar Attack Counterfire

Missing in Action

October 6, 2011

This blog has covered most of the ground that I envisioned when I created it 9 months ago, so things will slow down here.  Hopefully this opens up time for me to work on other potential projects, one of which is an expansion or sequel to the Fire in the Jungle RPG Supplement.  I’m not missing in action, but new posts likely won’t occur on a regular schedule.

Speaking of Missing in Action…here’s Chuck Norris.

Missing in Action (1984), directed by Joseph Zito in the Philippines.  Over-the-top bonkers, as far as ‘Nam movies go.  But, surprise, there really isn’t much jungle and none better than average.

Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985), directed by Lance Hool in Mexico and St. Kitts, an island in the Caribbean.  A Jungle as Prison movie.  Great action in the second half and best jungle in the trilogy.

Braddock: Missing in Action 3 (1988), directed by Aaron Norris (Chuck’s brother) in the Philippines.  No jungle, just a breezy coconut plantation.  Notable for its depiction of the fall of Saigon.

Another by Chuck’s bro:

Platoon Leader (1988), directed by Aaron Norris in South Africa.  Decent jungle here, but this falls in the dreaded “definitely not a real movie, but not trashy or fun enough to be worthwhile” category.  The first half of MIA2 and most of MIA3 fall into the same category, which means the original MIA is likely the only one of these that I’ll possibly rewatch anytime in the next decade or so.

Did you know there was a Missing in Action arcade game?

Run through the jungle.

Fire in the Jungle. Game over.

Killing Machines in the Jungle

September 22, 2011

Here’s two legendary pieces of garbage that have a few things in common.  For starters, they were both filmed in the Philippines, of course.

Phantom Soldiers (1987).  Directed by Teddy Page.  Insane Namsploitation with excellent jungle.  A couple elements similar to Predator, but this is a unique and special trasher.  Best of genre?

Robowar (1989).  Directed by Bruno Mattei (aka Vincent Dawn), previously mentioned here as director of the notorious Strike Commando.  A hilarious mashup of Predator and Robocop, with decent jungle.

Highlight reel:

We have a title! And infravision.

This villager tried to sneak up on a Phantom Soldier, but...

...it didn't end well for that villager...

...or his village.

Predator rip-off scene. Just not the same without a massive gatling gun.

Mike Monty. I salute you.

This poor communist just realized...

...his fate.

Ironically, despite the loads of blood and gore in Phantom Soldiers, the turning point in the plot is when the chef nicked his finger while cutting sausage.

Now, on to Robowar:

RoboVision

The RoboHunter

Is this too subtle?

Fire in the jungle. Game over.

For those people clamoring for more Namsploitation movies filmed in the Philippines, here’s five more…

Eye of the Eagle 2: Inside the Enemy, directed by Carl Franklin (1989).  Cirio Santiago is credited as a producer of this movie, and he directed Eye of the Eagle 1 and 3, so I’ll include this in his Vietnam catalog too.  Solid jungle action at times, but not enough…very short movie and much of it set in the city.

Beyond the Call of Duty, directed by Cirio Santiago (1992).  Unique among Santiago’s Vietnam flicks in that it is about a Mekong patrol boat trying to escape the interior after the fall of South Vietnam.  But don’t tell these guys to “Never get out of the boat.”  Frequent stops are made to thwart ambushes, rescue children and a nun, demolish bridges, touch up the boat’s paint job, etc.  Oh, there is gold treasure too.

I think I’ve now watched every Vietnam and Post-Apocalypse movie by Cirio Santiago.  Good times.  Now I move on to the Nam movies directed by Italian trash master Antonio Margheriti, a.k.a. Anthony Dawson

The Last Hunter (1980).  A.k.a L’ultimo Cacciatore and Hunter of the Apocalypse.  David Warbeck stars in this mashup of Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter. Think about that for a moment.

Tiger Joe (1982).  A.k.a. Fuga dall’arcipelago maledetto (literally:  Escape from the Cursed Archipelago) Many of the same actors as in The Last Hunter, but Tiger Joe is nowhere near as good.  This and Tornado also borrow some generic footage from The Last Hunter.  About a gun runner shot down in Cambodia, I think.  Nothing really makes sense, but worth watching just to see Tony King’s performance as “Midnight”.  His bright yellow jump suit in the jungle is brilliant.  I think traveling the world creating and acting in low budget movies would be one of the greatest jobs imaginable.

Tornado (1983).  A.k.a The Last Blood.  Standard “platoon operations in the Vietnam bush” stuff in first half, but then became a First Blood-inspired romp through the jungle in the second half.  Mike Monty makes an appearance and it’s his best performance I’ve seen.  I think he was drunk during filming.  Jungle is nothing special here…appears to have been filmed in a coconut and palm plantation.  Movies like this are what created the popular notion (in America at least) that jungles always look like what is seen in the intros of video games like Ikari Warriors and Operation Wolf: